Streetopia set to take place in Isla Vista

Bren Schader

According to Facebook and other online social media sources, Floatopia 2011 for Isla Vista was scheduled to take place April 2 or April 9, but local authorities are working to put a stop to the event.

“The beaches will be closed April 2nd and 3rd,” said Lieutenant Ray Vuillemainroy, head of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol.

Vuillemainroy, originally a police officer for eight years in San Francisco, has been part of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department for 15 years. This is his first year guiding foot patrol and his first experience with Floatopia, but he is not taking the matter lightly.

Since 2004, UCSB and City College students flock to the local beaches with floaties in hand and party on the beach in an annual event that has come to be known as “Floatopia”.

Many people are not aware of what exactly Floatopia is, but according to online sources, Floatopia is an annual “Spring Kick-Off Party.” Students buy floats or make their own floating devices, grab their friends, and fill the local beaches. Most party attendees drink on the beach, as well.

Officials say that Floatopia is harmful to the environment and the students, as well. There are no public facilities on local beaches, no running water, and the staircases are extremely narrow. The community disapproves of “people urinating all over” and the destruction it causes to the environment Vuillemainroy said.

“Obey the laws. Obey direction,” he said.

In 2008, Facebook caused the event to grow to nearly 1,000 students, but in 2009, the event “exploded” Vuillemainroy said.

Students created an event on Facebook, inviting the public to attend the event. As a result, nearly 12,000 students filled the beach, resulting in 78 alcohol citations, 13 arrests, and 33 people treated for alcohol poisoning, head injuries, and lacerations. Bridget Sandoval, a fourth year at UCSB, participated in Floatopia in 2009 and was shocked to see the results of the event.

“It was craziness… It was madness,” Sandoval said. “I remember living on Sabado, there was an ambulance every 6-8 minutes.”

She continued to explain the trash that was left was not just littering, but pollution and shards of glass from alcohol bottles remained on the beach for weeks after Floatopia.

Unlike the rumors that have spread, no deaths have occurred to date and no one has drowned. But, Vuillemainroy warned, “Things can happen.”

However, for those who were looking forward to participating in Floatopia and are still looking to participate in the “Spring Kick-Off Party,” Streetopia (aka Del-topia) will take place this Saturday, April 9.

So how can students partake in the event and avoid being injured, arrested, or cited?

“No drinking, no underage drinking, be responsible, and obey the laws,” Vuillemainroy said.

He wants students to know the “zero tolerance” policy is in effect for this event.

More officials from fire department, emergency services, foot patrol, and police officers will patrol to enforce applicable laws, including minors being in possession of alcohol, people being drunk in public, and open containers of alcohol present.

Although the local police ban Floatopia, Streetopia is supposed to take place under specific circumstances, Vuillemainroy said, “Be responsible, obey the laws.”